Sports Nutrition & Recovery

A few years ago, a movie was released called Idiocracy. I must admit that while I was watching it I alternately loved and hated it. It satire of Swiftian nature and not for the faint-of -heart. I know many people who loved the movie and watched it as a straight comedy. A statement you will appreciate if you have seen the film. The language is harsh, as the f-bomb is used and used and used until it is meaningless (which in and of itself is very meaningful in the context of the film). The characters are frustrating, but not entirely unlikable.

It takes place in 2505 America, and I won’t go into great detail or spoil anything about the plot, but suffice it to say that most of the citizenry wouldn’t be able to read this blog. The main character, Joe, played by Luke Wilson, discovers that the lack of crops/dustbowl situation that has arisen is the result of watering the crops with “Brawndo” (it’s got electrolytes). “Brawndo,” a sports-drink, is all anyone drinks – water is only in toilets. Brawndo even comes out of what we would call water fountains. If nothing else put me off of sports drinks, this did.DSC_6590

Later, as I was working on the Food Politics unit and doing research for my book, I found that the popularity of these sports drinks coincided with our obesity epidemic. People were drinking them instead of water, not as post-workout drinks, but just to drink, like iced-tea or soda. They have ingredients lists that include things like BVO (bromated vegetable oil), HFCS (High fructose corn syrup), and artificial colors and artificial flavors. What serious athlete wants to fuel her body with chemicals?

Sports Nutrition

That led me to researching sports nutrition. Do you know what I found out? Water isn’t enough for your body to recover. I originally thought that all of this sports recovery drink stuff was just more consumerism hype. But I found that many trainers recommend chocolate milk as a post workout recovery drink! It has the correct protein to carbohydrate ratio to help an athlete’s body recover. Check out the recipe for chocolate syrup and add two tablespoons to 16 oz. of milk and stir to dissolve. BAM!

However, when I come in from a long walk in the summer, I am not in the mood for chocolate milk. I want something more watery, like a sports-drink. When my husband is outside working all day, I want to fill his jug with more than water, but milk is going to turn into yogurt. When my daughter has a soccer game, she needs something that is not going to make her gag if she chugs it on the sideline. Chocolate milk is not going to stay nicely through the day for my son to drink after cross country practice. So we make our own recovery drink:

2 lemons, juiced

2 limes, juiced

1 ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt

¼ Cup unrefined sugar or raw honey

Combine the ingredients in a ½ gallon jar and mix until the sweetener is dissolved. Fill the jar the rest of the way with filtered water. Shake to mix and refrigerate.

This supply lasts our active family about a week. We don’t drink it like iced-tea: only after strenuous work.

Handling Food From the Ground

Or : What to do with what you just picked up at the CSA

At my CSA, we have something called the “Mix-n-Match” table: you have a bag and you can fill the bag with whatever you would like from the table. So the week there is a three-okra limit, I might not put any in my bag – it isn’t a family favorite unless it is pickled and I am not going to pickle three okras. So there I am, admiring the scallions (aka green onions or bunching onions), and this woman asks, “What are those?” Before you judge her, and shake your head in disbelief that someone might not know what a scallion is, she had just overheard a conversation about bunching leeks and what to do with them. Plus, she’s new to the CSA.

I said, “That’s a scallion.”

“Why is it so big?”

Because what we get from the CSA was just harvested and not trimmed so it will fare better in long transportation. I explained to her that when she got home, she should trim the roots and the tops and indicated on a scallion about where that should happen.

“Oh,” she said and paused. “I feel stupid.”

photo 1Well, she shouldn’t. And neither should anyone else. The food Americans purchase at the grocery store, even in the produce section, many times bears little resemblance to the food as it comes out of the field. Carrots are dirty, have long green tops and are not always uniform in shape. They are longer than one inch, and have a peel that most people scrape off with a peeler. Lettuce comes in many colors, not just pale iceberg greenish-white, and the outer leaves sometimes have residual dirt where they meet the stalk. Cucumbers have stems. Summer squash and zucchini can grow to be larger than a baseball bat.

Much of what I pick up from the CSA has dirt on it. It hasn’t been washed in peroxide and/or acetic acid, the ingredients in some commercial food production produce washes. It has been rinsed in potable well water and that is all. The rest is up to me.

Root vegetables get washed first, as they are generally heavier and tougher and can withstand being at the bottom of the drain board. I bought a scrub brush just for my veggies and I scrub the roots vigorously under running water. Pat them dry with a towel and leave to air dry. I use a washcloth on peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and other softies so as not to bruise them.

Leafy greens get a special treatment. The CSA brings them in from the field and then submerges them in water to get “the field heat” off of them. It prevents wilting to a certain extent. We found that after two days, the leafies would start to wilt again. At first, they became compost fodder, then they went to the chickens, but now, we resurrect them:

Fill the sink with warm water – not hot, but really warm. Put the wilted greens in the sink and let them soak. I know this is entirely counter-intuitive, but trust me. After about ten minutes, drain the sink and add cold water. The greens will have perked up. Here’s the science: heat relaxes things and cold constricts things. Leaves have pores through which they absorb or give off moisture. If you allow the pores to open (warm water), they can absorb moisture and rehydrate. After the leaves rehydrate, constrict the pores (cold water) to keep them crisp.

Shout Out to a Friend: Beet Kvass

A friend of mine has many health issues, and because this was too much to send in a Facebook PM, and there may be others out there who might benefit from this, here’s some information on Lacto-fermented beets.  First of all, the humble beet packs a major nutritional wallop: it is an excellent source of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, vitamins A and C, niacin, and fiber.  It is high in folic acid and folate and has been proven to help prevent heart disease, stroke, and even cancer. When a vegetable is lacto-fermented, the nutritional value is increased because in addition to adding probiotics, the nutrients in the beet become more bioavailable, more easily and readily absorbed by the digestive system.

This is so incredibly easy, it is almost painful:

Coarsely chop 2 or 3 beets and place in a clean quart-sized jar.  Cover with a brine of 1 tablespoon of salt per pint of water .  Make sure the beets are covered by the brine.  If you need to add more liquid to cover, do so.  Be sure to use filtered water because any level of chlorine content will prevent fermentation.  Leave the jar on the counter for 2-5 days, looking for little bubbles forming in the liquid.  You must check beets everyday because they have a high sugar content and will mold in a heartbeat.  If you see any mold forming, skim it off.

Once you see the bubbles, strain the liquid to a clean jar and add more brine and begin the process again. Drinking some beet kvass everyday is really healthy.

After the second batch, I strain the beets, reserve the liquid for drinking and add the beets to some beef stock and call it borscht, even though my grandmother would have scoffed at it.

Recycle those Pumpkins!

Every year, our CSA grows pumpkins. Big orange Jack-O-Lanterns, long slim pie-pumpkins, small tender “sugar pumpkins” that I sometimes eat like an acorn squash and sometimes make into pies.  But our favorite thing to do with them is carve: we love to carve Jack-O-Lanterns.

Greg and I carved our first Jack-O-Lantern a few days after we were married. We put a candle in and waited for the Trick-or-Treaters.  Of which we had well over 100.  It was our first Halloween in our home, and the first of many that we would run out of candy.  When we ran out of candy, I blew out the candle and brought the pumpkin into the kitchen, so it wouldn’t end up smashed in the street by some late coming trickster enraged by our not having any more treats.  The next morning I took it out to the trash thinking, “What a waste, really.”

The next year, the day after Halloween, my neighbor came and asked if he could have our carved pumpkins – a friend of his leaves them in his yard for the deer. I said that was fine and gave them away.  That was how we disposed of the pumpkins for a few years.

Then it occurred to me that Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are edible, so why not make pumpkin muffins out of them, or custard, or pie? So I tested it out.  They really don’t have as much taste as a pie-pumpkin, and they are a little more fibrous.  However, they aren’t tasteless, and some over-baking and a blender can take care of the fiber issue.

So, in this day of recycling as much as we can, I say RECYCLE YOUR JACK-O-LANTERNS! Here’s how:

  1. Don’t carve your pumpkin until Halloween afternoon. This way, there isn’t much time for mold or bacteria to begin to grow.
  2. Use an unscented candle to light the face.
  3. When you bring it in after trick-or-treating, cut it in half and wash it out with hot water.
  4. Pat it dry and wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.
  5. The next day, put the pumpkin, cut side down on a baking sheet (or two) and put it in a 350 F oven for about 2 hours, until it is really mushy.
  6. Let it cool and then scrape the flesh from the skin.   I use a grapefruit spoon for this – the serrated edge is really helpful.
  7. Puree it in a blender. I usually combine the pumpkin with equal parts of butternut squash – it helps with the color and improves the flavor.
  8. I store this in plastic bags in the freezer. Measure by 1 cup into a plastic bag. Lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet and put the cookie sheet in the freezer. I leave it for about four hours. These bags cane be stacked in the freezer, and when you need 1 cup of pumpkin for muffins, or two cu0ps for soup, you can just grab what you need and defrost it.

These bags keep in the freezer for a year.

Back to School?! Breakfast

Already?

I cannot believe that the summer has slipped by so quickly, and that I am getting ready to go back to school.  No, I am not ready.  Although I don’t think I ever am ready.  Between working on the house and working on my book (Food Empowerment, the book, will be released in the Spring of 2015), I feel like I didn’t get a lot of other things done.

But here we are.

Summer breakfasts are fun.  Most days, I am like a short-order cook, taking requests, because we have the time to cook it and eat it!  Once school starts? That is another story.  I’m not even home when my children eat breakfast.

Here are some ideas to keep you from picking up that package of frozen waffles:

  1. Make your own waffles and put them in the freezer.  Separate them with a sheet of waxed paper so they come apart easily.
  2. Make a double batch of pancakes, and put them in the freezer.  My kids heat them up with butter, sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar and roll them up.
  3. Using a wide-mouth pint canning jar, put in 1/2 C of rolled oats and 1/2 C milk. Then add 1 C of frozen berries.  Put a lid on it and leave it in the fridge over night.  Grab and go in the morning.  You could use dried fruit, as well.  I also like this with applesauce.